Truth Bowl: Beyond Polarized Debate

Truth Bowl is a structured dialogue, halfway between competitive debate and a panel discussion, designed to model and train people in “productive disagreement.” TRUTH is sometimes interpreted as the acronym “Teaching Respectful Understanding Through Hospitality.”

Two Panelists compete in front of a Jury to address a Challenge, composed of a Question and an Objective. Members of the Jury award panelists Points for clarity and thoughtfully addressing disagreements. At the end of each Round, the Jury rewards the panelist who most helped them comprehend the Challenge with the title “Domaĝanto” (Esperanto for “Question Tamer”).


Each Round is hosted by a Gospador, a Proto-Indo-European term meaning “Lord of Strangers” (“Guest-Power” is the closest English cognate).  The Gospador reads the Challenge, keeps time, moderates the Panelists, and can act as Foreperson for the Jury.

There are four Phases in a Round.  Jurors score both Panelists at the end of each Phase. Panelists are encouraged to self-score for learning purposes, but those points don’t count towards becoming Domaĝanto.

  1. Perspective: The Panelists take turns answering the Challenge. Points are awarded based on how well each Panelist:
    1. Answers the Question
    2. Explains their assumptions, logic, and values
    3. Anticipates common objections
  2. Panelist Questions: Each Panelist identifies one or more illuminating questions they’d like to ask the other Panelist.  The Gospador picks one to ask for them, and they go back and forth until the original asker is satisfied.
  3. Jury Questions:  The Jurors similarly propose their top questions. The Gospador is responsible for asking each Panelist a similar number of questions. The Juror who first proposed that question can go back and forth with the relevant Panelist until they are satisfied (or the Gospador calls time).
  4. Concluding Remarks:  Panelists each have a few minutes to summarize what they’ve learned, and propose potential steps for resolving or clarifying any remaining differences in Perspective.  The opening Panelist usually goes last.

After all four Phases, the Jury chooses one Panelist as Domaĝanto.This is typically done by seeing who has the most Points, but if the result is close Jurors may deliberate briefly to attempt to sway their peers.

Relation to Ethics Bowl

Truth Bowl grew out of the Collegiate Ethics Bowl, with the aim of bringing that mindset of “generous disagreement” to a larger audience. In particular, rather than being targeted at academic teams and topics, Truth Bowl is primarily designed for use by ad hoc individuals across the Internet to explore and shape the public dialogue around our most important and divisive social and political questions.  For example, competitions typically take place online using Zoom videoconferencing, and are recorded for rebroadcast on YouTube.



5 Comments on “Truth Bowl: Beyond Polarized Debate”

  1. […] our second “Truth Bowl Beta” we are pivoting away from a panel discussion towards more of a back-and-forth debate […]

  2. […] join us for Truth Bowl Beta 3 next Thursday, August 15th at 3PM […]

  3. […] Truth Bowl (now Fish Bowl) we are attempting to find a new operational definition of truth-seeking to supplant […]

  4. […] Circles are always recorded and broadcast over the Internet, in the hopes of inspiring others to engage in similar civil conversations. They are an offshoot of The Great Reset, a public discipleship men’s group launched during the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, which in turn was inspired by Truth Bowl. […]

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